top of page

Navigating the Disclosure of Disability at Work

A Guide for Job Seekers and Employees Seeking Workplace Accommodations

Disclosing a disability in the workplace can be a daunting task, especially for those who experience anxiety around asking for support. However, it's essential to remember that in Canada, individuals with disabilities are protected by the Duty to Accommodate, which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to enable employees to perform their job duties.

A young, white warehouse employee is wearing a red hoodie and white hard hat with a head lamp and safety glasses. They are smiling and looking off camera in a well lit warehouse. Words overlaid display the title of the blog article.

Understanding the Duty to Accommodate:

The Duty to Accommodate is a legal obligation in Canada that requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace or job duties to accommodate employees with disabilities. This duty is enshrined in human rights legislation across the country and applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, job duties, training, and advancement opportunities.

Nine Tips for Disclosing Disability at Work:

  1. Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with the Duty to Accommodate and understand your rights as a person with a disability in the workplace. This knowledge will empower you to advocate for the accommodations you need.

  2. Choose the Right Time and Place: The sooner you disclose your disability, the sooner you may have access to workplace accommodations and support. Consider disclosing your disability during the hiring process, during orientation, or when you feel comfortable doing so. Choose a private setting to have a confidential conversation with your employer or HR representative. Remember, when disclosing your disability at work, you are not obligated to share intimate details; only provide information relevant to your capacity and ability to perform effectively in your role.

  3. Seek Support from Colleagues: Oftentimes it can be helpful to have support from a trusted individual when disclosing disability at work. If you feel comfortable, consider confiding in a trusted colleague about your disability and your plans to disclose it at work. If you belong to a union, consult with your union rep and invite them to support you, or you ask an HR representative to join you in your meeting with your employer. Their support and advice can be invaluable during the disclosure process.

  4. Focus on Solutions: When disclosing your disability, emphasize the accommodations or adjustments that would enable you to perform your job effectively. Be specific about your needs and how they relate to your job duties.

  5. Provide Documentation if Necessary: In some cases, your employer may request medical documentation or other forms of evidence to support your request for accommodations. Be prepared to provide this information if required.

  6. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of your discussions, requests, and any accommodations provided. Documentation can serve as evidence of your efforts to engage in the accommodation process and can be valuable in resolving any disputes that may arise.

  7. Refer Your Employer to Education Resources: In an ideal world, our employers would consult the Job Accommodation Network or a Disability Employment Service like CAN WiN to educate your employer about your specific disability and how it may impact your work. However, if you are speaking to your employer independently, providing information and resources can help dispel misconceptions and facilitate a better understanding of your needs.

  8. Be Open to Flexibility: Recognize that the accommodation process may require flexibility and negotiation. Be open to exploring alternative solutions if your initial request is not feasible or if adjustments are needed over time.

  9. Request Ongoing Support: Remember that disclosing your disability is not a one-time event. If your needs change or if you encounter new challenges in the workplace, don't hesitate to request additional accommodations or support.

Canadian Resources for Disability Disclosure:

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Provides information and resources on the Duty to Accommodate and the rights of individuals with disabilities in the workplace.

Visit their website

Disability Alliance BC

Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion

If you're a person with a disability seeking employment opportunities with respectful and accessible employers across Canada, consider exploring our accessible career opportunities. We are committed to supporting individuals with disabilities in disclosing their disability to their employers and establishing workplace accommodations to ensure sustainable employment. Get in touch to learn more about how we can assist you in your job search journey.

By understanding your rights, advocating for your needs, and accessing available resources, you can navigate the process of disclosing your disability at work with confidence and ensure that you have the support you need to thrive in your career.


Looking for more detailed information on workplace accommodations?

Job Accommodation Network Logo

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on job accommodations and disability employment issues. Serving customers across the United States and around the world for more than 35 years, JAN provides free practical guidance and technical assistance on job accommodation solutions, and self-employment and entrepreneurship options for people with disabilities.

Self-Assessment logo

Do you want to be a more inclusive and accessible employer?

Take this 15-minute Disability Inclusive Employer Self-Assessment to gain a deeper understanding of where you’re doing well and where there’s room to improve.

Open Door Group and Presidents Group collaborated on this tool, created from recent international research on practices that truly increase inclusion and retention of people with disabilities in the workplace.


bottom of page